The dog days of summer are upon us, which means plenty of hot weather. Between now and mid August everything slows down in the garden so we can start spending less time doing and more time enjoying. But for those who need to keep busy, there are always a few things you can do to keep your garden looking beautiful. Whenever it’s hot, try to schedule these tasks for morning or early afternoon.
- If the weather turns dry, avoid fertilizing your plants. It will further stress your plants to put energy into new growth during periods of drought.
- Protect your emerging corn crop from critters by placing a paper bag over each ear. Secure the bag with a rubber band. Do this just as the corn begins to mature. Remove the bag once the corn is ripe.
- Raise the blade on your lawn mower. The tall grass will keep the roots cool and conserve moisture – a must during the hot, dry weather typical of July.
- Order Colchicum autumnale bulbs for planting in August and September. Also known as autumn crocus, these petite pale pink to lavender blooms will appear in fall.
- If you’ve been pinching back your garden mums to encourage a more compact shape, it’s time to stop and allow them to set flower buds.
- Now is a good time to make rose cuttings. Choose stems that are just under the diameter of a pencil. Make your cut at an angle just above a leaf node. Be sure the cutting is at least 4 to 5 inches long and has a couple sets of leaves.
- Tomato horn worms are large with green and white stripes and a red “horn” near the end. Hand picking is the best method of control. However, if you see one covered in tiny, upright eggs leave it be. These are cocoons of the braconid wasp, a predator of the tomato horn worm.
- Some potted plants may need daily watering. Small pots, hanging baskets and window boxes in sunny locations may even need to be watered twice a day. If the top few inches of the soil are dry or the stems are wilting, it’s time to water.
- It’s time to start planning for your fall vegetable garden. For plants grown from seed, make sure they have enough time to mature before the first autumn freeze. Check the back of the seed packet to find the number of days until harvest to determine when you should plant.
- Keep those weeds pulled – especially those that spread by reseeding. If you can get rid of them before they go to seed you’ll have less work next year.
- Morning glories don’t like soil that’s too rich. In fact, if it’s too rich they will produce lots of vine and not many flowers, so be easy on the fertilizer.
- As gourds begin to form use a nail to scratch a pattern into the shell. The pattern will expand as the gourd matures.
- Provide a source of clean water to attract birds to your garden. Bird baths should be shallow with a rough surface for the birds to stand on. Place the bath at least 4 to 5 feet away from feeders to prevent droppings and seed debris from contaminating the water.
- Use an old phone book as a flower press to preserve late summer blossoms. Choose flowers with flat or small centers so they will compress easily. Arrange the flowers on a piece of cardboard and hold them in place with a little clear tape. Label each one and write something about where it was growing, put it in the phone book and add a weight on top. Check after a couple of days. Once dried, the flowers can be glued onto cards to make pictures, or to embellish photos and letters.
Good to Know
I garden in zone 8a. Spring usually starts in March and fall extends through November. The summers are long and hot. I write these tips with the idea that they are applicable to all zones during a general period of time. However, given microclimates and weather extremes timing can vary. Observe the conditions in your garden and apply them accordingly.